Farmer's Voice

Sustainability without tobacco?

Niall Ferguson, in his book 'Empire', defends reasonably well the idea that the the economic evolution of England first and the United States afterwards, were due to their main Institutions, especially those allowing for the representation of conflicting interest like Parlamient and those defending the rights of individuals, including property.

We all know how Institutions in the modern world went far beyond those goals and became more related with Max Weber's theory, that any organization tends to expand its scope and, particularly, its budget to the biggest size possible.

The developed countries' administrations are full of special bodies or branches or observatories that few know about and whose tasks are as obscure as their costs. But the United Nations and its tentacular agencies are, probably, the best example of Weber's theory.

Following high ideals, commendable objectives and less clear vested interests, some of them have produced, along the years, a vast array of Plans, Programs, Projects and Goals.

Years ago, Koffi Annan decided to commemorate the new Millenium with the nice idea of establishing a short timeline for the end of extreme poverty in our planet.

As this was not ambitious enough, the UN has now approved the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), elaborating on the need to make sure that previously approved goals are achieved through sustainable paths, whatever that may be.

Having experienced previous fashions from important UN agencies related with development like the World Bank, the FAO or the IFAD, tobacco growers are concerned with this last and new one.

They have reasons for concern.

The World Health Organization (WHO), with is blind fury against anything related with tobacco, has already expressed its goal of making sure that future projects for the poorest countries, which are highly dependent on UN and international aid, will include conditions related with strict measures against tobacco consumption but, possibly, not only that.

Some poor countries in the world like Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Bangladesh and underdeveloped regions in other less poor countries, like Argentina, Philippines or Indonesia, have substantial employment and sustainable agro-industrial clusters linked to tobacco growing.

The governments of these countries will have to make sure that the conditions attached to the new Sustainable Development Goals, do not try their hands at sustainability attacking tobacco production and destroying millions of irreplaceable jobs in the process.